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ELECTIONS 2020 JUDICIAL Deidre Baumann seeks diversity on Cook County bench
by Tim Peacock

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Capping off a nearly 30-year career as an attorney, Deidre Baumann has set her sights on becoming a judge in the Cook County Circuit Court during the upcoming election.

As an out member of the Chicago LGBTQ community, Baumann has worked diligently to secure and preserve civil rights for marginalized members of the local community. Aside from serving as the president of the Suburban Bar Coalition, she also serves on the board of directors for the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago and is the vice chair of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Committee of the Illinois State Bar Association.

Windy City Times: Since you last spoke with Windy City Times, what's changed ( if anything ) in your professional life? You still own a private civil litigation practice ( Baumann & Shuldiner ), right?

Deidre Baumann: I'm still running my practice—civil rights, employment discrimination and personal injury. In the interim, I've received a large verdict in an employment discrimination case in federal court. A disabled client—a former public school teacher—prevailed on that. I've also obtained additional positions in the bar associations and so forth.

WCT: You passed the bar in 1992, meaning you've had a nearly 30-year career. What would you say is the most important issue or case you've been able to tackle in that time?

DB: A lot of the issues that I deal with are important. They deal with constitutional rights and due process. In terms of cases, the Burr Oak [Cemetery] case is something I'm very proud of. I worked on that for many years. Do you recall it? In Alsip, there was a primarily African-American cemetery—Emmett Till is buried in the cemetery—and there were employees of the cemetery digging up grave sites and dumping the remains.

As soon as we learned something was going on—a client called me—I went into court and immediately got a receiver appointed. That was the beginning of a long battle to get some justice for thousands of people who were affected by not only the digging up of the grave sites, but poor recordkeeping, a dilapidated cemetery, etc.

Within the last several years, I also worked on an appellate brief and then a Supreme Court brief for the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association. Ultimately, I helped achieve the abolition of the public duty rule. It was important for plaintiffs seeking relief from governmental entities. We had a tort immunity law—a common-law doctrine—that didn't provide a defense. It just stated there was no duty owed by the police or fire to citizens generally. That doctrine had been around a long, long time and thankfully, it was abolished.

WCT: You've run for office a couple of times now. What are some of the lessons you've learned from those campaigns and what made you decide to run in 2020? What is your driving force?

DB: The byline is "a voice for equal justice." I feel like, I've run before and I felt like I was climbing up a hill because society wasn't ready for some of the reforms we're finally accepting. Criminal justice reforms. Things have moved in the right direction and I want to be part of it. I want to use my many years of experience and knowledge of the law, integrity and life experiences I've had with all types of people particularly doing the type of law I do.

I think we need judges who are diverse and can bring varied life experience to the bench and we can move forward with some much needed judicial reform.

WCT: Speaking of diversity, as an out member of the LGBTQ community who works with multiple organizations that seek to promote equality, what do you see as the largest or most important issue facing LGBTQ people this election?

DB: As a member of the community, I am very hopeful that [transgender attorney] Jill Rose Quinn can become an addition to the bench. I think it's also important to not forget the diversity of our group. Voters need to know who the LGBT candidates are running whether they be lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, etc. It's important to have diversity on the bench, and I think we're moving in the right direction.

WCT: Do you have anything else to add?

DB: I went to law school and became a lawyer to help people. I want to use my experience, knowledge of the law and integrity to continue to help people. And I think now is a good time for me to be able to do that.

For more information on Deidre Baumann's campaign, please see .

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